The Puglia region of Italy
Lampascioni or 'vampagioli' are a type of seasonal onion in Puglia which were once always prepared during carnival in certain areas of the region. Now, because onions are available throughout the year, the tradition has faded somewhat but they still make a tasty addition to the table.
We have discovered two ways of preparing them. The first is as a 'sweet and sour' dish; the second dipped in fig 'vincotto' or mulled fig wine. This is roughly how to do both:
SWEET AND SOUR LAMPASCIONI
Firstly, clean and wash the onions well. Shake them to remove all the drips then coat in flour and a beaten egg.
Next, fry them in boiling extra virgin olive oil. Once done, place the cooked onions on a serving dish which has been previously sprinkled with sugar.
Finally, squeeze lemon juice over the onions. Serve cold after at least three hours.
Vast swathes of Puglia were once dedicated to growing grain and wheat and it is not by chance that the breads, taralli biscuits and pastas from the region can be bought all over Italy. Unfortunately, production is not what it was but we have tracked down a small 'forno a legna' in the hamlet of Casalini near Cisternino, province of Bari on the edge of the Valle D'Itria, to give you an idea of what the independent visitor to Puglia looking for gastronomic experiences can find.
Pane di Altamura Dop is a traditional Apulian bread product from the zone of the Murgia Altamura in the province of Bari. To get an idea as to how long and how much this bread has been part of the Puglia local food culture, the Latin poet Orazio in the 37 BC was hailing it the best bread he had ever eaten.
Eating badly in the zone of Fasano in the province of Brindisi is a crime according to a small brochure produced by the Città di Fasano. The city guarantees that the many restaurants and trattoria of Fasano offer a high level of quality based on an ancient tradition of excellent local products.
June in central Puglia means bright colours and rich cherry harvests, especially in the cities of Bisceglie and Turi in the province of Bari. Turi is in the heart of Primitivo DOC wine country, but also knows a thing or two about cherries, not least the 'Ciliegia Ferrovia' or 'Railway Cherry', a strange name for the most cultivated cherry type in Italy.
Certainly large, the name actually originates from around 1935 when the strain was developed from the nut or seed of a tree growing near the railway lines heading south east towards Sammichele di Bari. Hence the name 'Ferrovìa' given by the local people. Carefully looked after the fruit of the original tree became popular with both consumers and cultivators and spread its roots first towards Conversano and Turi.
Turi still remains one of the most important zones for cherry production in Italy, mainly due to the fact that the 'Ferrovia' keeps its freshness for at least a week and is easily exported. The 'Sagra della Ciliegia Ferrovia' in June is held in its honour.